Question: Business case for creating a Chief Culture Officer

My company provides a specialized training product to large corporations and it has grown over the last decade to 60 employees. Over time, several of the founding team members have been replaced by experienced managers from other organizations.

So far, we had our entire team focussed on product development, but now we feel the need to focus on organization and culture so we can attract top talent and reduce internal alignment issues.

We are currently considering cost-benefit of

- either, continue with our CEO supported by an HR professional as the "champion of culture"
- or, hiring/ reassigning an executive to be the primary driver as "Chief of Culture"

Due to hectic travel by our CEO we are leaning towards the latter option, but it is a BIG commitment for a company our size. Please advise.

2 Expert Insights

What is the nature of the current culture? There's already one there, whether it's explicit or not. So the question is about what distinctions to you want to clarify in the culture shift/ change/ upgrade/ encoding?

Re: which of the two paths to take, well, I would pose the question which path is congruent with the culture you're seeking to embody?  Might as well start the 'culture clarity' process with this action. It will go a long way toward not only the answer you're seeking but the choice of person, if you elect that path.

Seems to me that you probably don't need a dedicated 'Chief of Culture' for a number of reasons, not least because handing it off to one person will likely allow the CEO's attention to go elsewhere when it is fundamentally his or her responsibility.

You could save a lot of investment by using an external person to help identify what you have now and what you want in the future and to support you in plotting the course between the two. They would also support the whole of your leadership team, along with the whole company to take ownership of the culture and ensure that you all stay on track together. In this way you will have ownership taken by everyone and you'll have a healthy situation which will contribute to the new culture and encourage your new top talent to join you.